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How to Apply for a China Visa — a Step-by-Step Guide

China visa

Planning to visit China, but don’t know how to apply for a China visa? You will get the following information on this page:

3 Things to Do Before Applying for a China Visa

1. Find out if you need a visa.

Please confirm whether or not you need to apply for a visa. Be sure to review the China visa-free policy.

If your country participates in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not need to apply for a visa if you are traveling for business or pleasure.

The following will be refused a China visa (and should not apply): persons suffering from a mental disorder, leprosy, AIDS, venereal diseases, and/or contagious tuberculosis.

Be aware that all regulations are subject to change without previous notice. Contact your country’s visa application body to confirm requirements.

2. Find out what visa you need.

Determine your visa type by reading about the types of China visa. Each visa type explains the qualifications and application items. Choose the visa type that applies to your situation.

3. Check your passport

Ensure the validity of your passport. To get a China visa, you must have a valid passport with at least 6 months of remaining validity. So if your passport is due to expire in less than 6 months, you will need to renew it before you apply for your visa. You must have blank visa pages in your passport as well.

If you do need to apply for a visa, please follow the steps below. We have provided you with detailed information about how to apply for tourist, business, and work visas.

How to Apply for a Tourist Visa (L Visa)

China Visa

If you are planning to go on a vacation or visit family in China, you will need to obtain a Tourist Visa. If you plan to travel with a tourist group organized by a travel agency, a group visa is acceptable.

A Tourist Visa is the most common type of visa and likely to be the one that travelers opt for. You can apply for it without any help from a business, school, or government agency.

This visa is usually issued for single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry. The duration of each stay is normally 30–60 days.

Step 1: Gather your documents.

You need to prepare these documents:

  1. Passport (original, not a copy) with at least two blank visa pages
  2. A complete visa application form (The visa application form can be downloaded from the Chinese embassy website or from our website. You complete it by computer, print and sign it.)
  3. A recent passport-type photograph (head and shoulders only, front view, with a white background, approximately 35mm x 45mm)
  4. Air ticket booking record (round trip) and proof of a hotel reservation.

If you are planning to stay with friends or family who live in China and can’t provide the hotel confirmation, you need to provide an invitation letter. The letter should include the following:

  1. Personal information of the applicant: name, gender, and date of birth
  2. Details of the visit: dates, purpose, places to visit, and places of accommodation
  3. Details of the inviting party: name(s), telephone number, address, and relationship to the applicant

If your travel is being organized by a tour group in China, an official signed and stamped invitation letter for tourists issued by a duly authorized tourism unit in China can be used in place of the hotel reservation.

Step 2: Submit the application.

You may submit the application to the Visa Office at Chinese embassies or consulates, or China Visa Application Service Centers if they are operating in your country.

Mailed applications are not accepted by most overseas Chinese embassies or consulates. No appointment is required by most embassies or consulates.

If you cannot go in person, you can entrust someone else to drop off the visa application, or a travel/visa agency to help handle your visa application.

For applicants holding a U.S. passport, we recommend VisaHQ, who provides a fast, efficient service at a very competitive price.

Step 3: Pay the visa application fee and collect your visa.

The fees vary enormously depending on your nationality and number of entries. For your reference, we give you a pricing table at the end of the page.

Apply for special permits, if necessary. If you are planning on traveling to the Tibet Autonomous Region, you will need to get a special permit from a Chinese travel agency.

If you are already in Hong Kong and want to visit mainland China, it is possible to get a China visa in Hong Kong. Read our step-by-step guide.

Passport

How to Apply for a Business Visa (F Visa)

If you’re going to take a business trip to China, you will need a Business Visa. This visa is usually issued for single-entry, double-entry, or multiple-entry. The duration of each stay is normally 30–60 days.

Apart from the general documents, such as your passport, a visa application form, and a recent passport-type photograph, this visa requires that you have an invitation letter provided by a Chinese organization or company.

How to Get the Required Chinese Invitation Letter

Your invitation letter can come from one of two sources:

  • A Chinese government agency
  • A company or organization (such as a trade fair/show) in mainland China

If your invitation letter is from a Chinese company or institution, it must be printed on their official letterhead, showing their company address, phone number, and fax number. The letter must also bear the official seal of the company or institution.

Your invitation letter must include the following eight elements:

  • Your personal information: name, date of birth, passport number, full name of the company that you work for, and your job title;
  • Major purpose of your visit;
  • City you will visit;
  • Date of arrival and departure;
  • Explanation of the relationship between the Chinese company and your company;
  • Explanation of who will bear the cost of your accommodation in China;
  • Personal information about the person inviting you: full name, job title, detailed company address, fax number, and phone number;
  • Official seal of the company or organization and signature of the inviter.

The F visa (visa for exchanges and visits) is similar to the M visa in its document requirements and application process.

Apply for a work visaYou need to apply for a work visa if you want to work in China.

How to Apply for a Work Visa (Z Visa)

If you want to work in China and get paid, you will need a Work Visa. Here are the most important things you need to know:

  • Ask your employer to send you the proper documents, such as a Visa Notification Letter and Employee Permit.
  • This visa is only valid for 30 days from the date of arrival. So you need to apply for a Temporary Residence Permit in a Public Security Bureau (police station) when you arrive.
  • Generally, the age limit for male applicants is 18–60 and it’s 18–55 for female applicants.

How to Apply for a China Student Visa (X Visa)

Any foreigner who intends to apply for a student visa in China must first be accepted for admission by a recognised Chinese educational institution, then must obtain a student visa before arriving in China.

To legally stay in China during the study period, foreign students must apply for either an X1 Student Visa (for study/fieldwork of more than 180 days) or an X2 Student Visa (for study/fieldwork less than 180 days).

Step 1: Plan to Apply at the Right Time

The best time to apply for a Chinese visa is between two months and fifteen days before your departure to China. Note: the rush service (one business day) is only available in some countries.

The visa will expire after 90 days (or 180 days, in some cases), starting from the day you obtain it. X visas are valid for one entry. The holder of an X visa must go through residential formalities in the local public security department within thirty days of entry into China to obtain a Residence Permit for the Purpose of Study.

Step 2: Prepare the Required Documents

  1. Completed Visa Application Form of the People’s Republic of China
  2. Original and copy of Visa Application for Study in China (JW201 or JW202)
  3. Original and copy of China education institution admission letter
  4. Two suitable photos
  5. Passport with over 6 months validity
  6. Proof of legal stay or residence status (if not applying from your home country)

Other relevant documents may be required depending on background and/or country of applicants.

Download the visa application form and fill it out carefully and accurately to eliminate any errors as this can cause a delay in processing and/or a refusal of the requested visa.

Receive your JW201 or JW202 form and written notice of admission from your Chinese educational institution. You can print out the admission letter from the Internet, but you must submit the original JW form, filled in and sent to you by the Chinese educational institution, and signed by yourself. Photocopy them.

Obtain two suitable “Chinese passport photographs” (head and shoulders only, front view, with a white background, approximately 35mm x 45mm)

Step 3: Submit Your Application

Submit the visa application form at the Chinese Embassy, Consulate, or Visa Application Center (VAC) in your home country.

Pay the visa application fee. In most countries, the fee must be paid when you apply for the visa. The price varies from 30 to 140 USD depending on your nationality, the type of visa, the country where you apply and the number of entries.

You can send your application through a travel agency or a visa agency for submission on your behalf. Most Chinese Embassies, Consulates, and VACs do not accept documents by post.

When to Apply for a Visa

It is important to get your visa early, but not too early because it is only valid for 90/180 days for single/double-entry visas from the issue date.

The regular service processing time is 4 days, and the rushed service takes1 day. The latter is only available in extreme emergencies pending a consular officer’s approval.

It is usually recommended that you apply for the visa one or two months before the intended travel.

Visa Fees

1. Regular Service

Number of Entry U.S. Citizen Canada Citizen Non-U.S. Citizen*
Single Entry USD 140 CAD 100 USD 30
Double Entries USD 140 CAD 100 USD 45
Multiple Entries for 6 Months USD 140 CAD 100 USD 60
Multiple Entries for 12 Months or more USD 140 CAD 100 USD 90

*Visa fee for certain non-U.S. citizens may vary from the list above based on reciprocal agreements. Please check with a Visa Office for special fees.

2. Express service: an additional fee of $20 per visa

3. Rush service: an additional fee of $30 per visa

How to Extend Your China Visa

Foreigners who want to stay in China beyond the duration of their visa need to apply for an extension.

The visa extension application should be a form submitted to the Local Public Security Bureau 7 days before the expiration date of the visa. Once your visa is extended, the new dates start from the day you receive your new visa – NOT from the day your old visa was going to end.

Visitors traveling with a group on a group visa and who want to stay longer than the group should apply for an individual visa.

Visitors who want their visa to be extended should provide the following evidential materials

  • Valid passport and your current visa
  • a passport sized photo
  • A completed application form for visa extension
  • Reason for the extension

The length of the extension depends on the type of visa and multiple entry visas cannot be extended.

You are advised not to overstay the duration of your visa or fail to apply for an extension before your visa expires as you risk being heavily fined and have your travel plans disrupted. Please contact your travel advisor for assistance in visa extensions.

What to Do If You Lose Your Passport in China

Passport

Be sure to check if your passport is indeed lost before you report it. Once it is reported lost, it is cancelled and no longer valid, and you’ll need a replacement.

If you lose your passport, here are 4 steps you can follow:

1. Ask your tour guide for assistance, and immediately report the loss to the nearest Public Security Bureau, who will issue a passport loss report.

2. Go to your hotel and ask for a stamped proof of your residency. You will need those for a new passport application, along with:

  • any other original proof of identity or proof of citizenship (must be the original government-issued photo ID document);
  • about eight passport photos (45mm by 35mm with a white background: two photos for the new passport application, photos to apply for another visa, and photos for an emergency passport);
  • a copy of your passport (we suggest you take several copies of your passport with you on your trip).

3. With all the things prepared, locate the nearest embassy or consulate of your own country and apply for a replacement passport in person. You’ll be required to complete a new passport application, and there will be fee charged for replacing passport.

4. After the new passport is issued, go to the Public Security Bureau and apply for new visa, so you can continue your trip or leave for your country.

The processing time is about 2 working days. However, in some cases, a replacement may take weeks to process, and it may be valid only for a limited time. Note that offices handling such issues usually close on weekends and public holidays.

If you travel with a tour group, and the processing time means you you cannot comply with the group's travel schedule, you need to apply for separation from the group visa. So take special care of your passport during your journey!

Tailor-Making a China Tour

Visit the Great Wall of China

China Highlights is your China tour tailor-making expert. See the recommended tours below for inspiration:

As an alterative to customizing the recommended tours linked above to meet your individual requirements, we can help you tailor-make a tour according to your interests and requirementes.

Or check out our ideas and suggestion on How to Plan Your China Tour in 2019.